Heron Publishing: All About Reading

Note Taking

Good note taking skills will save you hours of frustration and improve your grades. You will become much more efficient both in school and at work. Your memory will improve as you write notes and organize your work. The key to finding information quickly is good reading and note taking skills. Often, you are researching to write a paper or build a speech.

For help in taking reading notes click here.

For help in taking class lecture notes, click here.

For help in paraphrasing your notes, click here

For help in outlining your notes, click here


Take effective reading notes:

  • Read all the assignment first. Then go back for answers to questions or to make an outline.
  • Read next for main ideas and details, using the chapter headings as your outline.
  • Fold your paper vertically in thirds so the main points are written on the left 1/3 and the details on the right 2/3.
  • Use a webbing tree outline, with the main topic as the trunk, and sub topics and details as branches and leaves.
  • A very few people do best by reading the questions, reading all the assignment, and then answering the questions. This may work best for you.
  • If you can’t read your own handwriting easily, try typing your notes on the computer. That is what I do!

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Take effective lecture notes

  • Date your notes, put the course name at the top, and the title or subject of the lecture. Teachers are required to tell you what the day’s lesson is about. College students get a printout of lecture topics for the semester. Four or five months later, or if you drop your notebook, these headings will help you identify where the notes go.
  • Again, as described in reading notes, fold your paper vertically in thirds so the main points are written on the left 1/3 and the details on the right 2/3.
  • If you don’t understand a word of what is said, write as rapidly as you can, and after class, compare your notes with a group of other students to be sure all your notes are complete. Rewrite them for clarity and to remember the content.
  • If you understand what the teacher is saying, organize your notes by dividing them into main ideas and details as described above. Your teacher is lecturing from an outline. Try to reproduce that. You probably also have time to write down the jokes in the margins.
  • If you already know it all, be sure to discipline yourself to write down the main ideas and any details you don’t know. Experiment with some of the other ways of outlining described in essay writing. Practice taking notes using pictures, diagrams, or cartoons.

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Paraphrase your information using the ideas below: (also read about Research Skills)

  • Read a sentence or two. Then pretend you are describing the information to a young child. This totally changes the vocabulary and sentence structure of the original article.
  • Reword the sentence using different words for the main nouns, verbs and adjectives.
  • Use information from several different sources for each topic so your teacher is sure that it doesn’t sound like you are copying from the encyclopedia or the Internet.
  • Rearrange the order of the information so it is different from your main resource.
  • Avoid quotations. Put the information in your own words. Remember your teachers have read the same encyclopedias and web sites that you have used!

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